Massage is the oldest form of physical medicine known to man and can
be traced back to the early Chinese medical manuscripts around 400BC.
Massage was advocated by Hippocrates who was born in the fifth century
and was known as 'the father of medicine'. It was widely used and
written of in Roman times with history recording how Julius Ceaesar
received massage to relieve neuralgia!
Very little was recorded about massage in Europe between the Roman
times and the early Middle Ages, but by the sixteenth century medicine
slowly started to re-learn what had been lost. Between 1776 and 1839, a
Swedish professor, Peter Ling, created a scientific system of
therapeutic massage known as Swedish massage and established a teaching
institute in Stockholm.
Today, massage therapy is one of the fastest growing forces in the field of health care.
Massage is simply the manipulation of the soft tissues of the body -
the muscles, tendons and ligaments. A massage therapist's hands are his
most important tool through which he not only treats the patient but
also detects physical and emotional problems. The massage therapist
palpates the patient's body to determine the condition of the tissues
and the likely source of any pain, and thus the correct form of
Massage works through the various body systems in one of two ways, a
mechanical action and a reflex action. A mechanical action is created
by moving the muscles and soft tissues of the body using pressure and
stretching movement, thereby cleansing them of acids and deposits. This
mechanical action breaks up fibrous tissue and loosens stiff joints.
A reflex is created when treatment of one part of the body affects
another part of the body, much like pressing a light switch on a wall
to turn on a light in the centre of the room. Just like this electric
connection, so too are different parts of the body connected to
eachother not just by flesh and bone but by nerve pathways, or flows of
energy known as 'meridians'. So, by using reflex action, some
therapists will treat a patient's stomach complaint by massaging the
arms, and will alleviate pain in the legs by massaging the lower back.